Burma and Back [7]

Monday, 5 November 2012

Thai-Burmese Border

Today, I went all the way from Chiang Mai up to the border at Burma (also known as Myanmar, the country directly to the west of Thailand). My friend Mica needed to go up there to get more time on his visa. This is commonly known as a ‘visa run’ where you just drive to the border, go through immigration and the come back again. This automatically gives you 15 days on your visa. Anyways the drive up there was fairly long and uneventful, just chilling, talking and listening to music. After about 3 hours of driving the border loomed into view. It was a really busy area with heaps of people and trucks and things coming and going. Mica got his visa renewed and I got a chance to look around at the big market and get a huge feed for about $6 (still can’t get over how cheap the food is here!).

On the way back we stopped by a place called the ‘white temple’, which is basically just a really intricate decorative temple with lots of amazing artwork and sculptures around it. It was done by a foreigner  and has so many weird sculptures around it including these hands coming out of the ground, demonic faces and even one of Predator coming out of the ground. To really understand why it is so beautiful you have to witness it in person, or at least see what it looks like:

The White Temple [click to enlarge]
Sculptures at the White Temple
With the Rangers at the national park

Then on the way back we drove past a National Park which Mica and I both wanted to check, out so we drove up and just chilled in the park for a while drinking some scotch. After a while the park ranger came up and asked us what we were doing. Instead of kicking us out and telling us to be quiet he was really friendly and had a drink with us. He then invited us into his house in the park to have some food and drink some more with his family and friends. We ended up going up to their house and eating some random food and getting drunk and making a nice bonfire with the local park rangers. The guy we were drinking with turned out to be the superintendent of the whole national park and he got wasted and told us ‘not to worry, because the police couldn’t fuck with us here’. It was a pretty random occurrence but also turned out pretty well. One of the rangers made some noodles which seemed alright but it turned to my horror out that the little jelly-like chunks were infact lumps of dried pigs blood. The food got a lot less attractive after that. We got on pretty well with the guys, and they were just naturally friendly, as I have found a lot of Thai people are. Despite what anyone says about their culture, lifestyle or anything else, the majority of Thai people that I have met have been really nice, and I think that counts for something!

The Ranger who made the unfortunate stew

Before I left Sydney I was worried that I might become lonely leaving all my friends and family behind, but I have found out that this is not the case. There are just so many people in the world, and so many nice ones at that. The truth is that if you just go with the flow you will naturally meet so many interesting people and I have found that making friends comes so naturally once you are in the right mindset! You just have to be yourself, and a little confident and outgoing and you will soon find that things will go your way. We all make friends in the places that we are based (school, home, work), I think its just a natural human process!

In terms of looking for a job, I have actually found that everyone wants to learn English here, and if you dress nicely and put out a positive impression people will just give you teaching opportunities. I have had many offers for private tuition, and then a few offers from language centres and schools as well. It seems everyone knows someone who wants to learn English. I just have to get organised and manage all the clients properly.

School for Life

I have managed to find a job volunteering at an amazing place called ‘School for Life’ which is basically a school which takes in orphans and kids from broken homes (about 112 students at the moment) and looks after and nurtures them. I will be living, eating and teaching there. Luckily for me though there are also  other English speaking volunteers (who just happen to be 2 German girls) so I won’t be completely alone! I am going up to School for Life on Wednesday to talk to the director of the school, and from there I will know what is happening. I think it will be a really good opportunity as well because it is at a place where they will really need me. The only real reason I wanted a teaching job which pays money is so that I could sustain myself, but if I have a place where I will get free food and accommodation, and not a single place around to spend my money, then that is exactly what I am looking for!

The Beast

In other news have rented myself a nice lil scooter to get around on (only 115 cc with a top speed of 100km :/) but it is still better than walking. Although there are a lot of nice second hand motorbikes and scooters around so I will consider purchasing one of those soon so that I have one of my own. I am also considering going on a road trip with some friends down to an electronic music festival in Bangkok on the 17th. I am also considering doing a 10 day meditation retreat at a local temple in Chiang Mai, where a few foreigners also do the same thing. You have to get up at 4am and you can only eat 2 bowls of rice though :/

Lastly and most importantly, I feel that even in this short time away from Sydney I have had the opportunity to start to get back to being myself. I believe that as independent as we all might think we are, we are still influenced by everything surrounding us, societies attitudes, beliefs, associates & friend’s personalities, the government, media, the list just goes on- and having time to travel (even though I am still surrounded by all those things) encourages a refreshing mindset of indifference. I think it is hard to define what our ‘self’ really is, but I think perhaps it is easier to say what we are not. And I think what we are not is being defined by things outside of our control.
Anyway that might not make total sense but part of the reason I am writing this blog is as a point of reference for myself, so coherency is not always my highest priority.

Until next time!

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